The play is built in the form of a chain of paintings that depict individual episodes from the life of the second-Finnish warhead. Marketers were called merchants who accompanied troops on campaigns. Mother Courage has no illusions about the ideological background of the war and treats it extremely pragmatically – as a way of enrichment. She is completely indifferent to what flag to trade in her travel shop, the main thing is that the trade be successful. Courage also accustoms commerce to its children, who grew up in an endless war. Like any caring mother, she takes care that the war does not catch them. However, against her will, the war inexorably takes her two sons and a daughter. But, even having lost all the children, the marketer does not change anything in her life. As at the beginning of the drama, in the finale she stubbornly drags her shop.
The eldest son – Eilif, embodies courage, the youngest son Schweitzerkas – honesty, dumb daughter Catherine – kindness. And each of them is destroyed by their best features. Thus, Brecht leads the viewer to the conclusion that in a war, human virtues lead to the death of their carriers. The picture of the shooting of Catherine is one of the strongest in the play.
On the example of the fate of the children Courage, the playwright shows the “inside out” of human dignity, which opens in a war. When Eilif takes away cattle from people, it becomes clear that courage has turned into cruelty. When Schweitzerkas hides money behind his own life, it is impossible not to be surprised at his stupidity. Mute Catherine is perceived as an allegory of helpless kindness. The playwright pushes to reflect on the fact that in the modern world, virtues must change.
The idea of the tragic doom of children Courage in the play generalizes the ironic “zong” about the legendary personalities of human history, who, allegedly, also became victims of their own merits.
Most of the blame for the broken fates of Eilif, Schweitzerkas and Catherine, the author blames on their mother. It is no accident that in the drama their death is mounted with the commercial affairs of Courage. Trying to win money as a “business man,” she loses children every time. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to believe that Courage craves only profit. She is a very colorful personality, even attractive in something. The cynicism characteristic of Brecht’s early works was combined in it with a spirit of disobedience, pragmatism – with ingenuity and “courage”, commercial excitement – with the power of motherly love.
Its main mistake is a “commercial” approach to war, free from moral feelings. The maritime woman hopes to feed herself on the war, but it turns out that, according to the sergeant major, she feeds the war herself with her “offspring”. The scene of enchantment (the first picture) contains a deep symbolic meaning, when the heroine, with her own hands, draws black crosses on pieces of parchment for her own children, and then mixes these pieces in a helmet (another effect of “alienation”), jokingly comparing it with the mother’s womb.
The play “Mother Courage and Her Children” is one of the most important achievements of Brecht’s “epic theater”. Mother Courage acts as a symbol of crippled Germany. However, the content of the play goes far beyond the framework of German history of the twentieth century: the fate of mother Courage and the strict warning embodied in her image concerns not only the Germans of the late 30s. – the beginning of the 40s, but also of all who look at the war as commerce.